Student Visas - Home Affairs Committee Contents

Written evidence submitted by BioIndustry Association (BIA) (SV61)

I am writing on behalf of the Biolndustry Association (BIA), the voice for innovative healthcare focused bioscience companies in the UK, with regard to the impact of the proposed restrictions on Tier 4 migration and the Home Affairs Select Committee's inquiry.

The BIA understands that it might be helpful for the Committee to gain an industry perspective on one specific area under consideration—whether a policy for foreign students, where they were allowed to work off campus only on weekends, would be practical.

The majority of the BIA's members are SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) and many of them do take on work experience students and university placements, either on an ad hoc or regular basis. While the BIA has not engaged with its full membership on this specific question, there are industry examples relating to the practicality of this proposal which the Select Committee might find of use in its deliberations.

Specifically, this question was asked of Syntaxin, an Oxford based biopharmaceutical SME, which is developing a strong and unique biologics platform that delivers a pipeline of Targeted Secretion Inhibitors. Syntaxin has, over recent years, made use of students from a number of universities (such as Edinburgh, Bath, Sheffield, Leiden) which enables the company to leverage in additional support and workforce as required, or to acquire a specific skill set, in return for offering an element of practical, company-based work experience, training and/or study support. These students are typically with Syntaxin for three to six months, but they have also supported a number of PhD students who have been with the company on a part-time basis for the duration of their studies (three years). Therefore, Syntaxin is well placed to provide an SME view on student placement issues.

On being asked how a policy regarding foreign students, where they were allowed to work off campus only on weekends, would be viewed, Syntaxin have informed us that such a policy would be impractical to operate and defeat the purpose of a student placement. These placements are only of use to industry and, therefore, only offered if they are available during normal working hours, given the nature of research and the need for supervision for safety and training reasons. A weekend-only availability would not satisfy these requirements, would offer little to a company and would, therefore, preclude these students from working at Syntaxin.

Student placements within industry are an important part of the skills development process, with short and long term benefits both for the students themselves and for industry, and others who rely on the provision of highly qualified and highly skilled researchers. The above example demonstrates the need for these placements to remain practical and flexible to industry's needs with, if possible, light touch policy and regulation.

If it was considered helpful, the BIA would be happy to engage with members further on this specific issue.

March 2011

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Prepared 25 March 2011